Controversial US$ 1.6 billion dam project backed by China and Dharmawangsa Group threatens extinction of the rare Pongo tapanuliensis orangutan
JAKARTA, 5 March 2019 – The stage is set for a crucial showdown in a long-running battle to save a newly discovered rare species of orangutan from possible extinction at the hands of a planned US$ 1.6 billion hydroelectric dam project. The state administrative court in Medan ruled yesterday in narrow terms that it would not halt the construction of the dam. In the wake of that decision, a coalition of Indonesian organizations and international leaders are calling on the government to cancel the dam project and protect the ecosystem for the long term.
The proposed dam project, being constructed on the Batang Toru River, North Sumatra, by Chinese hydroelectric giant Sinohydro with financing from the Bank of China threatens the newly discovered Tapanuli orangutan species, as well as thousands of local people whose livelihoods will be put a risk.

The Tapanuli orangutan was only identified as a new species in 2017, the seventh great ape species in the world. Despite being newly identified, it is already perilously close to extinction with a population now numbering less than 800 individuals. It is estimated that the population has almost halved since 1985, and that it will continue to decline unless comprehensive protection measures are implemented.

The US$ 1.6 billion hydroelectric power plant, the largest on the island of Sumatra, is scheduled for completion by 2022. However, the dam was planned before the identification of the Tapanuli orangutan – meaning the environmental planning process didn’t consider the risk of extinction to this species.

The ownership of the project, considered part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, is a maze of overlapping Indonesian and Chinese entities, Chinese finance, and the Chinese state-owned company Sinohydro.

“Chinese investment has the potential to do a lot of good, but this project risks tarring the reputation of the Belt and Road Initiative,” said Panut Hadisiwoyo, Founding Director of the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC). “We hope that the Chinese government will reconsider this project in light of the discovery of the Tapanuli orangutan: can you imagine a foreign-funded project that threatens the Giant Panda with extinction ever being approved?”

One potential beneficiary of the dam is the nearby the Martabe gold mine, which is currently set to expand further into Tapanuli orangutan habitat. The mine is owned by a subsidiary of the giant British conglomerate Jardines Matheson, which has previously been criticized for its palm oil subsidiary’s tens of thousands of acres of deforestation of Sumatran orangutan habitat.

“Jardines has already profited from destroying tens of thousands of acres of Indonesian forests, and now it’s trying to mine gold that would forever be linked to the deaths of Tapanuli orangutans,” said Glenn Hurowitz, CEO Mighty Earth, an organization that has urged Jardines to help protect the Tapanuli. “Nobody wants to buy a gold necklace or wedding ring that is associated with killing an endangered species.”

The Dharma Hydro company, part of the Dharmawangsa Group, is also linked to the project. Dharma Hydro is the largest shareholder in North Sumatra Hydro Energy (NSHE), the company behind the dam project. Paradoxically, even as it helps develop a dam that would inundate habitat of the world’s rarest great ape, the Dharmawangsa Group is marketing a new resort it is developing on the island of Beilitung as an “eco resort.”

Environmental assessments have found that the construction and operation of the dam and power plant will also threaten the livelihoods of thousands of downstream local residents who rely on the river’s ecosystem for their survival for fisheries, agriculture, transport, and daily water needs.

“The Indonesian government spends millions of dollars on advertising to promote our natural treasures through the ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ campaign,” said Hardi Baktiantoro from Center of Orangutan Protection, who also joined the interview. “President Jokowi should protect that investment by focusing on responsible energy and infrastructure projects that can meet our power needs while protecting Indonesia’s wildlife.”

These enormous threats likely would come with few benefits. The dam has among the lowest benefit-to-cost ratios of any planned hydro-energy project in the region. It would operate only during peak times and carries projected cost of over US$1.6 billion. NSHE is also planning to build the dam in an area of intense geological activity, putting the project and surrounding communities at risk of earthquakes with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Reports have documented that there is no pressing need for the energy that would beproduced by the dam and shown that there are viable alternatives for energy production in the region. For example, the nearby 330 MW Sarulla geothermal project produces clean energy and can be upgraded to 1 GW if needed to meet the flexible or peak load power needs the dam is supposedly designed to address – and all without posing a risk to the Tapanuli orangutan.

“Indonesia can meet its infrastructure and energy needs without threatening the Tapanuli orangutan or wasting massive amounts of money on the Batang Toru dam – there are options for geothermal, solar power, or even smaller, less expensive and damaging hydro projects,” said Arrum from Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. “Ultimately, it is going to be us, the Indonesian people, that will have to pay back this enormous loan in our electricity bills”.

Further information, please contact:
Mighty Earth
Glenn Hurowitz

Image Dynamics
Ayunda Putri
+62 8122 00 1411 (phone & text) / +62 8977 400 788 (whatsApp)


Here it is, young Orangufriends who unknowingly have donated Indonesian orangutans. They participated in the coloring and drawing competition on the last day of the 2018 Art For Orangutan exhibition held by Gigi Nyala with Orangufriends at the Jogja National Museum. Through their interests, they show concern for orangutans. Maximum age for coloring is 7 years old but apparently there was a 2.4 year-old who have participated, Her name was Malika. The registration fee was Rp. 30,003.00, which some of the donations go to orangutans in the rehabilitation center.

Dessy Rachma, who was one of the three judges in the competition, conveyed the lack of abstractive ‘expression skills’ she found in similar events she has been judging, coloring and drawing competition at children level. Because the expression has a subjective judgment, I might like it but not necessarily so to other judges. And in the world of art, expressive works that tend to be abstract must have accountability, at least explaining that red is red and blue is the soul. Thus most scores are usually obtained from the results of the skills or the visible skills on paper. The combination of sad or cheerful color composition is also one of the scoring focus.

After Alfa Gashani, Imam Arifin and Dessy completed assessing and scoring the children work, then the winners of coloring competition category were announced, Tsania Hasna Salsabila (1st Place), Pelangi Widi Prameswari (2nd place) and Syaila Areta G (3rd Places). Winners got cash prizes, certificates and gifts from Gummy Box. 36 children participated in coloring competition, which were dominated by kindergarten children. Meanwhile, the drawing competition category was attended by 24 participants and won by Rayhan Syahrul Bastian (1st Place), Erina Triastuti (2nd Place) and Calista Zahra Diah Pramesty (3rd Place).
Art makes children powerful … (EBO)

Ini dia, orangufriends cilik yang tanpa mereka sadari sudah menyumbang untuk orangutan Indonesia. Mereka adalah yang ikut lomba mewarnai dan menggambar di hari terakhir pameran Art For Orangutan 2018 yang diselenggaran Gigi Nyala bersama Orangufriends di Jogja Nasional Museum. Lewat minatnya, mereka menunjukkan kepeduliannya pada orangutan loh. Usia maksimal untuk mewarnai 7 tahun tapi ternyata ada yang baru berusia 2,4 tahun sudah ikut berpartisipasi, Malika namanya. Karena dari biaya pendaftaran sebesar Rp 30.003,00 sebagian menjadi donasi untuk orangutan yang berada di pusat rehabilitasi.

Dessy Rachma yang menjadi satu di antara tiga juri lomba menyampaikan minimnya ‘skill ekspresi’ yang abstraktif di ajang yang sama sepanjang dia menjadi juri lomba mewarnai dan menggambar tingkat anak-anak. Karena ekspresi itu memiliki sifat penilaian yang subjektif, aku bisa saja suka tapi juri yang lain belum tentu. Dan dalam dunia seni rupa, karya ekspresif yang cenderung abstrak itu harus memiliki pertanggungjawaban, setidaknya menjelaskan merah adalah merah dan biru adalah kalbu. Sehingga skor terbanyak biasanya diperoleh dari hasil olah skill atau keterampilan yang kelihatan di atas kertas. Perpaduan warna yang dimasukkan menjadi komposisi yang sendu atau ceria juga menjadi salah satu fokus penilaian.

Setelah Alfa Gashani, Imam Arifin dan Dessy menyelesaikan penilaian terhadap karya anak-anak yang mengikuti lomba maka diputuskanlah pemenang untuk kategori lomba mewarnai, Tsania Hasna Salsabila (Juara 1), Pelangi Widi Prameswari dan Syaila Areta G (Juara 3). Pemenang mendapatkan hadiah uang tunai, piagam dan bingkisan dari Gummy Box. Peserta mewarnai diikuti 36 anak yang didominasi anak-anak TK. Sementara itu, kategori lomba menggambar diikuti 24 peserta dan dimenangkan oleh Rayhan Syahrul Bastian (Juara 1), Erina Triastuti (Juara 2) dan Calista Zahra Diah Pramesty (Juara 3).

Art make children powerfull…


Tiga hari setelah pemeriksaan kesehatan, akhirnya hasil laboratorium kesehatan orangutan Mary keluar. Mary sehat! Mary bisa bergabung di sekolah hutan. Demikian pengumuman drh. Flora Felisitas, dokter hewan pusat rehabilitasi orangutan COP Borneo yang berada di Kalimantan Timur.

“Deg deg an… dan siap-siap mengejar Mary.”, Jhonny memperingatkan rekan-rekannya. Sudah dua kali para pengasuh dibuat kebingungan mengejar-ngejar Mary soalnya. Tapi kali ini, saat pertama kalinya Mary berinteraksi dengan orangutan kecil lainnya… apa yang akan terjadi ya?

Jadwal sekolah hutan pun mulai disusun. Dua minggu pertama saja dulu, nanti kita evaluasi lagi dan selanjutnya jadwal bulanan akan keluar. Kamu penasaran juga kah melihat Mary pertama kali masuk sekolah hutan?

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